After exiting the RJD on Thursday, former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh wrote to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seeking extension of MGNREGA
benefits to the farm sector, a step being seen as an attempt by the veteran socialist leader to cosy up to the ruling JD (U).
In a letter to Kumar, Singh, one of his most vitriolic critics while in the RJD, said the MGNREGA law needed to be amended and its benefits extended to the farm sector. Since its launch in 2006, the rural employment guarantee scheme has aimed to provide livelihood security in rural areas by guaranteeing at least 100 days of minimum wage employment, mostly in the construction of durable assets such as roads, canals and ponds.
Several chief ministers have often sought extension of the benefits of the scheme to the farm sector.
In his letter posted on Facebook, the former Union minister also asked Kumar to facilitate the return of the begging bowl of Lord Buddha from Kabul. He also demanded that the chief minister unfurl the national tricolour at Vaishali every Republic Day. Vaishali, the parliamentary constituency Singh represented for five successive terms before his defeat in 2014, is considered the first republic in the world.
Singh had resigned from the RJD, the main opposition party in Bihar, on Thursday, triggering speculation about his joining the ruling JD(U). However, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, serving time in jail in four fodder scam cases in Ranchi, had rejected his resignation. "For four decades, we have together discussed political, social and even family matters. You get well soon and we will discuss again. You are not going anywhere, you understand," Prasad had written to Singh on Thursday, after the latter made it clear that he was quitting the party.
Singh, who is admitted to the AIIMS, New Delhi, because of post COVID-19 complications, has still not made it clear whether he will stay in the RJD or shift to the JD(U). The departure of Singh from the RJD is being seen as a major "psychological setback" for the party as a sizeable section of his Rajput castemen still backs the opposition party while all other upper castes plump for the BJP or the Congress.
Singh, who as the Union Rural Development Minister piloted the NREGA Bill, urged Kumar to bring an ordinance to amend the relevant law to extend its benefits to the farm sector. He insisted that the ordinance be brought before the model code of conduct for election kicks in. Assembly elections are likely in Bihar in October-November, and once the model code comes into force, no policy decision can be made.
The JD(U), which has already made it clear that its doors are open for the veteran socialist leader, indicated it was amenable to accepting his suggestions. "The issues he has raised in his letter to the chief minister are undoubtedly worth consideration," JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said.
"One thing is clear that Raghuvansh Babu was humiliated and insulted in the RJD and he swallowed it during his long stint in the party he nursed with his blood and sweat", Prasad said. He said Singh's decision to quit the RJD had left a "big hole in the party's sinking boat".
Before Singh, seven MLAs and five MLCs, including those belonging to the Yadav caste and Muslims, the bedrock of the RJD's support base, had resigned and joined the JD(U).